The Look of Santa Barbara: Landscapes that Exemplify the Beauty of Southern California by SB Evolution, Lane Goodkind + Associates, Sierra Landscape Design and Construction, and Grace Design
Working with the plants and landscape materials that are iconic of the Southern California landscape requires a special touch and the experienced eye of local designers. While soft lawns and shady spots are certainly possible, it is a true landscape professional who can use rough materials, spiky plants, and a minimalist approach to build outdoor places that are beautiful and comfortable. From Tuscan landscapes to gardens reminiscent of Spanish Colonial design, these experts weave the look of Santa Barbara into residential and commercial properties without sacrifice.
There are a handful of local professionals that bear mentioning in particular—landscape architecture firms and design-build companies that demonstrate their appreciation and passion for the region’s aesthetic in every project they do.
SB Evolution Landscape
The “SB” in this company’s name stands for Santa Barbara, and it shows. This company exemplifies everything Santa Barbara, from use of regional native plants and drought tolerant landscapes to fire prevention zones and California-focused maintenance programs. Owner Jorge Cortez is a native to the region and brings out his love for the landscape in his work. He and his staff will work with local property owners to develop the right kind of landscape plan, one which works with the water, sun, and soil conditions rather than fight against them.
The company’s landscapes are thus veritable tributes to the Southern California aesthetic. Rocky, dry river beds complement backyard living spaces and provide a stunning focal point, even in smaller spaces. Stone pathways through desert landscapes or formal gardens set about a long axis defined by a sparkling blue pool or fountain show that there is a Santa Barbara style for every property and SB Evolution can build it.
Lane Goodkind + Associates
With an ardor for the coastal landscapes of Southern California, Lane Goodkind and his team of landscape architects are dedicated to bringing its uniqueness back into the region’s properties with the look of grasslands and meadows. His background in water management is valuable as he has a genuine understanding of how water—and often a lack thereof—is a factor in the local aesthetic. His designs are therefore sensitive to the environment, bringing an awareness for stewardship and conservation throughout all of his commercial, public, and residential projects.
That is not to say that the company’s design work is dry (not literally nor figuratively) or uninspired. Formal gardens orient about small fountains that lend interest and white noise, while reflecting pools with invisible edges draw the eye outward toward the wild terrain of the California landscape. Rough materials within the hardscapes give way to softness and warmth where wood and fabric create inviting places to sit.
Sierra Landscape Design and Construction
With over thirty years in business in Santa Barbara, Sierra Landscape Design and Construction is truly a Santa Barbara mainstay. From design through completion Jose Garcia and his crews help homeowners realize their visions with a Southern California vibe.
The company’s designs capitalize on all that small gardens have to offer, stretching lawn areas to increase the size, if only visually, and flanked by plant materials that are endearingly Southern California—drought tolerant and colorful as well. Gently curving pathways meander through low impact landscapes, while the drama of boulder walls are softened with ornamental grasses. The textures of rock and mulch, too, add contrast, interest and color while creating landscapes that are easy to maintain and reduce water demand for true sustainability.
Though she uses styles that fall within a wide range—tailored to each client’s vision—Margie Grace’s landscapes are invitingly comfortable, recognizing that people who live in Southern California do so because they love the outdoors. Her work is therefore responsive, complementing the aesthetic of the architecture her projects surround yet transitioning gracefully to the surrounding environment as well.
The firm’s design-build setup allowed the company to create design and construction teams that work in concert throughout the project process, from concept to completion. This partnership keeps the client’s vision intact while building a project that is feasible, budget-wise, and responsible. Their landscapes, too, are stunningly California, drought-tolerant and fire retardant while painting with materials that are familiar to the area.
Embracing all that is wonderful about Southern California is easy to capture in development of a landscape. However, it is the region’s landscape architects, designers, and landscape construction professionals who have the true knowledge needed to put together gardens that exemplify the style and aesthetic here. Doing so with a conscientiousness toward sustainability and the environment only serves to enhance these landscapes as they thrive for years to come.